Five Questions To Ask Before Attending A Computer Tech School

As with any field, there are good technical training schools, and bad ones. When you sign up with one of these schools, you’ve made a significant investment in time and money. You deserve to know everything about the school and your job prospects after leaving that school before you put down your hard-earned money. The problem is, sometimes it’s hard to know the right questions to ask.

The point of this article is not to bash technical training schools. That’s how I got my start in IT eight years ago, and today I’m a CCIE™ and own my own Cisco training company and my own consulting firm.

Before I ever put down the first dime, though, I asked some tough questions. So should you.

What are my true job prospects and legitimate salary levels after I graduate from your school?

We’ve all heard the ads on the radio… “Did you know the average salary of an MCSE is $80,000?” “Are you worth $65,000 a year? If not, call us!”

I’m an optimist, and I often tell people that no field rewards individual achievement and drive like IT does. Having said that, none of us start at the top, and darn few of us start at that kind of salary.

I’m sure that there are some people who broke in at $80,000, but I haven’t met very many of them. Be very wary of technical schools that use the famous/infamous MCSE Salary Survey as a marketing tool. They tend to represent those salaries as starting salaries.

Ask your technical school what the average starting salary of their graduates is. And keep in mind that salary is not the most important factor to consider when looking for your first job in IT it’s the experience you’ll be able to put on your resume later on that you should weigh heavily at this point.

In short, be very careful about schools that brag about starting salaries. It’s not where you start, it’s where you end up.

How up-to-date are the courses you’re offering?

Make sure the school you’re going to attend has made efforts to keep their courses relevant. Ask what changes have been made to their curriculum in the last three years. No field changes faster than IT. If the answer to that question is “none”, look somewhere else.

I want to work in IT security. Have you placed anyone in this field lately? If so, can I talk to them?

Technical schools are jumping on the security bandwagon, with a couple of schools running ads about training you to work in Homeland Security. If that’s your goal, that’s great, but keep in mind that you have to get a security clearance for any job like that.

And how do you get a security clearance? You have to be sponsored.

And who will sponsor you? Your employer.

Can you get employed in a Homeland Security job without having the clearance in the first place?

Hmm. Probably not.

Hello, Catch-22.

Again, I’m certainly not saying you can’t eventually get an IT security job if that’s where you want to go, you can eventually get there. The key word there is “eventually”. Ask the school you’re thinking of attending whether they’ve actually been able to place graduates in such jobs. Ask to talk to them. If the school’s managed to do so, they’ll be glad to put you in touch with such graduates.

What textbooks does your school use?

Some technical school chains use only books that someone in their organization wrote. I’ve heard some of their own teachers complain about the quality of these books. The technical school I attended used off-the-shelf books, and the quality was very good. 

If you’re looking into entering the IT field, you probably know someone who’s already in it. Use that resource for everything it’s worth. Ask that person what they think about the books, or for that matter, what the local reputation of the school is. IT is a small world, if the school has a good or bad reputation, most of the IT personnel in your city or town probably know about it.

The fifth question is a question to ask of HR representatives. Every technical school lists companies where they’ve placed their graduates on their promotional material. Pick up the phone, call these companies, and ask to speak to someone in HR. Ask that person about the reputation of the school. Five to eight phone calls will give you a good picture of where the school stands with local employers.

Making the decision to attend a technical school can be the best decision you’ve ever made it certainly was for me. Make sure to ask the right questions before writing a check or taking a loan to attend the answers to those questions will indicate to you whether this school is truly the school that can help you achieve your dreams.

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Computer Training School Tutorial: Know Your Instructor

Making the decision to attend a computer tech school can be one of the best decisions of your life. Another great decision is to tap a hidden wealth of knowledge that is right before every student at schools such as ECPI and ITT, but very few students take advantage of it.

When you’re attending a computer training school, you must avoid the mentality that some other students will have – “I gotta go to school, I gotta be here, I can’t wait to leave and go home”. When you’re preparing for a career working with computers, you’ve got to take advantage of every learning experience you can get, and that includes getting to know the most valuable resource at your school – your teachers!

Your teachers have busy schedules, but it was my experience that every single time I asked for help or had questions outside of class, my teachers went the extra mile to help me. I’m sure yours will do the same for you, but you have to let them know you want that help!

At your tech school, you must develop the skills and work ethic that you will use to succeed in the IT field. By staying after class, working overtime in the computer labs, and getting to know your instructors, you’ll be astonished at the additional knowledge you can pick up. Almost any good teacher is going to have real-world experience, and you need to draw on that knowledge. Having lunch with an instructor is another great idea, as it allows you to get to know them away from the classroom.

Part of success in any field is making contacts for the future. You may not be in the IT field yet, but you should already be getting to know people with IT experience – and who better than your teachers? Besides, they hear about job openings all the time from friends, and the more you stand out from the crowd, the more likely you are to be remembered for such opportunities.